California's 2nd state Senate district tracks Highway 101 from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border. The state's wealthiest county (Marin) and a thriving wine industry at one end; one of the most destitute counties (Del Norte) and a declining timber industry at the other end.
With Santa Rosa Democrat Noreen Evans opting against a re-election bid, voters in this economically diverse and geographically challenging district are choosing a new senator this year.
The best choice for the job is Mike McGuire.
McGuire is well informed, hardworking and, at age 34, unusually experienced with a resum?that includes service on the school board and City Council in Healdsburg and, since 2011, representing northern Sonoma County on the Board of Supervisors.
Decisions made in Sacramento have cascading effects on cities, counties and schools, and none of the other candidates can match the breadth and depth of McGuire's experience in local government.
Moreover, having grown up in a broken home, gone to work as a teenager and put himself through college, McGuire has lived with the economic uncertainties faced by constituents in the struggling counties at the northern end of the district.
As a county supervisor, McGuire supported expansion of Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport, a project that will feed economic growth. With his district facing economic and public health threats because of the drought, he successfully advocated for emergency water supplies.
McGuire's vote to require project labor agreements on most county public works contracts was disappointing, and so is his opposition to San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed's pension-reform initiative. Yet he has managed to maintain open lines of communication and cordial relationships with the business community as well as organized labor.
When Evans announced that she would step down, McGuire hit the ground running, lining up support throughout the district. He is well positioned to finish first in the June 3 primary, with Democrat Derek Knell, Republican Lawrence Wiesner and independent Harry Lehmann competing for the second spot on the November ballot.
Wiesner, a Santa Rosa accountant, is familiar to voters after past campaigns for the Legislature and local office. He makes strong points about the state's unfunded pension liabilities and the need to retain employers. But some of his remedies — leveling with employees about pensions and eliminating affordable-housing housing requirements to be business friendly — strike us as a bit unfocused.
Lehmann, a Novato lawyer, lost us with his warning at a recent forum that broadband Internet connections pose a health threat to schoolchildren.
Knell, a Novato school board member, has positioned himself to McGuire's right. He criticizes party leaders for rallying behind McGuire before the primary and for their alliance with public employee unions.
Knell argues convincingly that retirement costs must be reduced further to protect public services. But he's much less specific on other issues, and his support for a bloated state water bond act is disappointing.
With Democrats outnumbering the combined registration of Republicans and independents in the 2nd District, there's a strong likelihood that Knell and McGuire will face off in November.
Knell's presence could make the contest relevant, but to be a serious challenger, he will need a more detailed platform. In the 2nd state Senate District, The Press Democrat recommends Mike McGuire.